Welcome to Fall Term 2015

By Jonathan L. Walton

Jonathan L. Walton

Friends of the Memorial Church Community,

I bring you warm greetings from the farmland of eastern North Carolina. My annual retreat from Cambridge to Carolina has been filled with wonderful books, daily walks to the fishing pond, and, most importantly, precious time with family. I also had the privilege of sailing along the Mediterranean as a lecturer for the Harvard Alumni Association’s travel adventure Voyage to the Lands of Gods and HeroesThis was my second consecutive summer as an HAA travel leader, yet the fascinating families aboard the ship made the voyage fresh and exciting. Each evening I found myself reciting Psalm 19 while admiring the beauty of the Aegean and Ionian Seas: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the sky proclaims the work of God’s hands.”

God’s hand has indeed remained on the Memorial Church. So many exciting things continue to unfold due to God’s grace, and your prayers and support. Despite a handful of recent retirements, the Memorial Church continues to be blessed with capable and gracious individuals who bring innovative thinking and unique perspectives to our ministry. I cannot shower enough praise on the amazing staff and their accomplishments.

Among the largest of these is the completion of a church mission statement to reflect and guide our sense of purpose within Harvard University. Our staff’s year-long collaborative process began with reading Harvard Business School Professor Linda Hill’s book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation. In weekly small group meetings, we named creative paradoxes in our role as a University Church, and identified and defined key theological terms to convey our identity. 

I am proud to report that in our final meeting of the academic year, the staff approved the following mission statement:

The Memorial Church of Harvard University is a space of grace in the center of the Yard, rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ. Affectionately known as “MemChurch,” we pursue partnerships within and beyond Harvard, empowering community members to serve the world as well-informed, compassionate, moral citizens. Through worship and ministry outreach, MemChurch aims to promote justice and mercy by confronting life’s challenges, differences, and our own imperfections with courage, empathy, and an ethic of love. By doing so, the Memorial Church seeks to educate minds, expand hearts, and enrich lives.

To be sure, the services and programs scheduled for this Fall Term testify to our mission of pursuing partnerships that promote justice and celebrate difference. We are excited to welcome faith leaders such as Dr. Yvette A. Flunder and Dr. David Greenhaw to the MemChurch pulpit. As a pastor who has been on the front lines in the battle against HIV/AIDS for decades in the Bay Area, Yvette Flunder models what it means for us to reflect God’s love and compassion. Similar can be said of Eden Seminary president, David Greenhaw. When a group from HDS traveled to Ferguson, Missouri last August, Eden Seminary housed us on its campus and provided valuable resources. President Greenhaw has empowered the faculty of Eden Seminary to become voices for justice and hands of healing throughout the city of St. Louis. 

I also ask that you keep the University Choir in your prayers and positive thoughts as they prepare to tour along the southeastern coast in January, 2016. Kudos to Gund University Organist and Choirmaster Edward Jones for scheduling this wonderful service and learning opportunity for our students. It is our hope that the UChoir’s songs of healing and redemption will minister to those in the region, particularly in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. 

Finally, as many of you already know, I will be away from campus this year. President Drew Faust generously approved a research leave for me to complete, among other things, my book project that was placed on hold when I was appointed Plummer Professor of Christian Morals in 2012. I am heading to Philadelphia in September to be The Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s scholar in residence for the year. This appointment will provide me with critical distance from the magnetic pull of responsibilities at the Memorial Church, as well as place me alongside valuable conversation partners in the field of religion, media, and culture. 

As I look forward to this year, I realize just how excited and blessed I am. I undertake this valuable opportunity to continue my academic research in hopes of becoming a better scholar, teacher, and preacher at the Memorial Church. And I am blessed to know that the day-to-day operations of the Memorial Church are in such capable hands, which includes everyone from the Senior Minister and Sedgwick Chaplain to cherished members of our cleaning staff. You can expect a powerful and productive year of programming and ministry. 

One Luv,

Jonathan L. Walton
Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister, The Memorial Church

Fall 2015 Calendar of Services and Events532 KB